Tabletop Tripod Use

Started Nov 15, 2007 | Discussions thread
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Don Ellis
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Tabletop Tripod Use
Nov 15, 2007

Working from the theory that any support is better than no support for low-light situations, I’ve found it convenient to carry a mini-tripod at all times because of its size and weight.

A few people have asked me how I use my mini-tripod to any decent effect and I thought a few photos might illustrate.

I bought the Gitzo 0012 tabletop tripod a few years ago because I just had to have it – even at US$150. But until I put my brain in gear, I didn’t use it all that much. After lugging a big tripod around – or not having a tripod at all – I found that my mind started reconsidering the small tripod.

A few facts first: The 0012 is now discontinued, but my comments apply to most any tabletop tripod. As a guide, the 0012 weighs 397 grams and the Markins Q3 ballhead weighs 383 grams – a total of 780 grams, or 1.72 pounds - which makes it a pretty painless decision to pick up on the way out the door.

The G9 with Lensmate and RRS L-bracket and my carabiner leash weighs exactly 500 grams, or 1.1 pounds. All three components weigh in at 1280 grams, or 2.82 pounds.

The 0012 is 9.5 inches folded up. With fully extended legs, the column up, and the ballhead and camera mounted, the centre of the G9 lens is at 22.5 inches.

I use the tripod three ways, 1) on the ground, 2) on a supplementary stand (desk, picnic table, tree stump, pedestal, etc.), or 3) against a support (tree, wall, etc.).

So here are some photos:

This first one show shows a leash and carabiner I installed for reasons that you’ll see in the second shot…

If I’m near a tree or other upright support and I’ll be taking quite a few photos, I tie a strong elastic cord around the support. Then I position the tripod, open the carabiner and snap it on. Don’t try to thread the elastic through the carabiner and tie it all at the same time – it’s not particularly safe for your camera. Tie the elastic. Test it. Snap on the carabiner.

I took these photos in a hurry at lunchtime today and ignored the guylines in the background... you should too. They're holding up trees and have nothing to do with the camera.

Here’s a shot in the park with the tripod’s legs extended, centre column down, on top of a gate post.

Here’s me shooting into the building to give you an idea of the tripod’s size.

Me again, this time getting creative – but this is the way I use the system most of the time. No elastic cord, just set the tripod against a wall or a tree or what-have-you and lean into it. Then adjust your camera.

The reason this works so well is that the Markins Q3 allows you to dial in tension that keeps the camera from flopping over while still allowing you to position the camera. You can fine-tune the tension so that once your camera is positioned, you don’t have to tighten the ballhead knob to take solid shots – so camera use becomes a one-handed operation. Once you get the hang of it, it’s very quick and efficient and I routinely shoot night shots at ISO80 because, well, the camera is on a tripod.

This technique can also be used in exhibition halls and museums and cathedrals where permitted. It’s almost stealth photography. You carry the whole contraption at your side, spot your target, put the tripod against the wall, aim and shoot. And with the ability to position your hand as high as you want, you also have an instantly adjustable support that lets you easily see the LCD screen.

In the case of the Gitzo, the column slips in upside down for close macro work.

On Monopods – now that you’ve got the idea, carry two elastic cords for your monopod. Angle it across a tree, lash it in place when the monopod meets the tree, put your foot on the end of the monopod on the ground, and adjust your camera. Again, you need a ballhead for this, preferably one that allows tensioning, so you don’t need to completely tighten it.

If you’re at the school play, lash your monopod to your chair leg (one cord near the floor, another near seat level; ignore the other parents). Lash it to a railing (I’ve taken some nice fireworks shots where a tripod would have been impossible to use because of the crowds – again, I used the double lashing).

And that’s about all I know on the subject. It’s really hit and run and handy.

Cheers,
Don
http://www.kleptography.com

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